Tuesday, May 06, 2014

There is so much denial...

I had just poured my second glass of Malbec on Friday night, happily relaxing after a long day of travel, when one of my Irish dancing colleague's diverted the course of our conversation toward the issue of clergy sex abuse. He expressed enormous frustration that the Church has hidden "so many" pedophile priests and voice grave doubt over its ability to be trusted. 

To no small degree, I agree with him: I'm equally appalled at the extent of the abuse and I generally don't think institutions are to be trusted. I believe in Jesus whom I have come to know within the Church. I pray to God within the Church. I neither believe in or pray to the Church itself...indeed, I often pray for the Church!

Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Saturday noted that on Saturday that, "Many don't see it [clerical sex abuse] as a problem of the universal church." He continues:
In many people's minds it is an American problem, an Irish problem or a German problem. The church as to face it is everywhere in the world. There is so much denial. The church has to respond to make the church safe for children.
Cardinal Sean's observation raises two critical points.

First, I continue to believe that at least in the American church, we are dealing with a largely historical problem. That is, the vast majority of cases of clerical abuse occurred before 1985. Without question, there have been and, I fear, will continue to be cases of clerical sex abuse. It may take years for abuse that occurred in the 90's and the early 2000's to be reported but, I suspect, we will not see numbers of cases such as we did from the 1980's.

We, at least in the United States, have had no choice but to face this problem. Yet this is hardly a problem only for Americans. I think the American church has taken great steps to ensuring the safety of its children but, I fear, this is not the case across the world. Even if it should prove enormously painful, the Church must turn over every stone within its universal body to root out the shadows of corruption and deceit that have victimized so many innocent lives.

Second, and vital to the conversation I had on Friday, this is a universal problem. It would be to our great shame, and a testimony to corporate ignorance, if we thought that this was a problem limited exclusively to the Catholic Church. Schools, after school programs, athletics, and families: predators can be found anywhere and everywhere. Even within Irish dancing, there has been exercised a sort of Omerta or code of silence.

The Catholic Church in American and Western Europe has, rightly, taken a drubbing for its frequently inept and duplicitous handling of abuse accusations. It would be, however, to our grave detriment to think this a problem exclusive to the Church. We need, all of us, to emerge from a culture of denial, a culture reluctant to face the fact that predators can be found in all walks of life, and begin to exercise greater caution and vigilance over our young. 

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